The Union Workhouse was built on 12 acres of land, at the top of Tregolls Road, to house 450 inmates.
It opened in 1851 and was a self contained unit; pigs and horses were kept and crops were grown. Inmates from Kenwyn, St Mary’s and St Clement workhouses were moved there and the parish workhouse buildings were sold off.
The building, designed by the architect, William Harris, followed the popular cruciform plan which was a common design for workhouses at this period. The building costs amounted to £12,196.15s.0d. The master and matron were responsible for the daily running of the workhouse. They were assisted by a school master, school mistress, nurse, porter, cook and medical officer.
New arrivals would be stripped, bathed and issued with a workhouse uniform made from very coarse material. their own clothes would be washed, disinfected and only returned to them when they left the workhouse.
During the admission procedure, the paupers were classed and each class was assigned a ward or separate building and yard where they were to remain. This resulted in families being separated from each other.
Class 1: Men infirm through age or any other cause.
Class 2: Able-bodied men, and youths above the age of fifteen years.
Class 3: Boys above the age of seven years and under that of fifteen.
Class 4: Women infirm through age or any other cause.
Class 5: Able-bodied women, and girls above the age of fifteen years.
Class 6: Girls above the age of seven years and under that of fifteen.
Class 7: Children under seven years of age.